Written by Sarah Graefe
I’m an adventurous eater. I have eaten some wild stuff – from sautéed crickets to roasted guinea pig – and enjoyed them! However, (I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know) my daily fare tends to be far less exotic. I can enjoy a tuna fish sandwich with the best of them. But sometimes what I really want is a plate of something totally outside the box.
I think God is like this too. With life I mean, not with eating (although if John the Baptist in his private moments with God could live on locusts and honey, I’m sure God has a creative palate). I think God craves adventure in our lives.
And at our core, I think we do to. We long to be purposeful. To give back. To change the world even if that means helping an elderly lady carry her groceries to her car.
We want to live adventurously, with purpose and pizazz; something I’ve heard called “living on mission.”
Can it be possible that there’s a greater purpose to our every day moments than even we can dream up? We were never meant to live a boring life… but how do we do that, really? How do we live on mission when life tastes a lot more like reheated leftovers than a gourmet special?
Fortunately the Bible is full of great adventure stories where we can find inspiration. For example, I love the story of Philip, found in Acts 6 and 8. Philip was your average church attender – young and newly saved, eager to join in the action with the apostles (you know, Peter, John and those guys).
I like to think that he daydreamed about smiting demons with a word, asking again and again for the story of Peter healing a sick person through only the cast of his shadow. He surely was in prayer meetings as often as he could get there, and asked a lot of questions, learning as much as he could about Jesus.
One day, Philip was chosen for a very specific task: caring for a group of widows in the church that were in need of attention. It was a task not very glorious, I’m sure, yet Philip leapt at the chance to simply serve.
It was this position of humility and faithfulness that pointed Philip toward some of his greatest adventures with Jesus. His life, I think, gives us some great examples of what it truly means to live on mission.
Living on Mission is Simple
You may have heard the story of Philip and the Ethiopian. This story, found in Acts 8, tells of a simple connection between two men which ended up impacting an entire nation for the gospel.
This adventure began for Philip with a very simple moment of direction from the Holy Spirit.
An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip. “Go south to the desert road. The road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So Philip started out. – Acts 8:26-27, NIRV
Philip was given simple instruction and obeyed. If Philip had ignored what God told him to do, he would have missed a major opportunity. He didn’t even have all the details. But he obeyed. He started out, even when he didn’t know the ending.
So often I think we overcomplicate what God wants to do in and through us. We may sense something from God if we’re still enough to listen, but we can be pros at talking ourselves out of it, believing that we didn’t even hear from God, or thinking that it’s too small a thing to even make a difference. What if we approached those simple words of instruction with simple childlike obedience instead?
As Philip takes his walk, he meets an Ethiopian man whom the Holy Spirit had already prepared to respond to the gospel. This man would not only decide to follow Jesus after talking to Philip, but would go on to take the gospel back with him to Ethiopia. An entire nation was impacted by Philip’s simple response to the Holy Spirit!
What are the little opportunities God has placed in front of you to show the love of Jesus right now? You never know what a simple conversation could open up.
Living on Mission is Intimate
We read in Acts 6:3 that Philip was “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” This means that long before he was given an assignment, Philip was cultivating a lifestyle of intimacy with the Holy Spirit to be able to recognize His voice in every day moments.
In fact, we can see this from how he responded in periods of difficulty. At the start of Acts 8, we read of a major persecution against the church after Stephen, one of Philip’s friends, is martyred:
“The believers who had been scattered preached the word everywhere they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria. There he preached about the Christ. The crowds listened to Philip. They saw the miraculous signs he did.” – Acts 8:4-6, NIRV
Did you catch that? Philip went immediately to share the love of Jesus even in the face of persecution and grief. This tells me not only that he was passionate about ministering to others, but that he knew how to take his grief, problems and fears to Jesus. Otherwise he would not have been able to continue in ministry.
Some people could argue that Philip had every right to give up on his assignment in ministry. He could have completely fallen apart over the loss of his friend. Instead he continued and would see some of his greatest fruit in ministry as he stayed in step with the Holy Spirit.
I am not at all saying that grief should be ignored or stuffed down inside us, or that we should blindly push past all emotions when we face difficulty. I do think the Holy Spirit asks us to bring our grief and pain to Him directly and allow Him to heal those places inside us so we can move forward. It’s part of what it means to walk in step with Him – a partnership of every day life with the Father who adores us.
Many times our personal struggles and fears will block us from hearing God’s voice or from moving forward in what He’s called us to do. We must regularly be close to Him and unload the burdens of our hearts so that we can continue to love on others. This is how we stay healthy spiritually – through regular intimacy with Jesus.
How can you make extra time in your week to sit with Jesus? What is weighing on your heart that you need to bring to Him and allow Him to speak to? Believe me, He wants to minister powerfully to you in a way that no one else can.
Living on Mission is Individualized
“Then both Philip and the Ethiopian official went down into the water. Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away. The official did not see him again. He went on his way full of joy. Philip was seen next at Azotus. From there he traveled all around. He preached the good news in all the towns.” – Acts 8:38-40, NIRV
You see, Philip’s adventure story with Jesus was not like Peter’s or Paul’s or Stephen’s. God used him uniquely to reach the widows of Jerusalem, the people of Samaria and Ethiopia and other cities. And on top of it, Philip was supernaturally transported by God to another place – just to further display God’s creativity and power!
The Book of Acts shows us over and over how creative the Holy Spirit is – He doesn’t follow a formula. And how much more does this apply to us today as we follow His lead?
Jesus is aware of your specific journey – your areas of pain and struggle, your gifts and personality and dreams. He has made you just the way you are to reach a select part of the world that could not otherwise be reached.
Living on mission for you may not look like anyone else’s. In fact, it’s not supposed to. Allow the creative God of the universe to creatively use you and lead you on the adventure He has specifically designed just for you.
Think about the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. How does your personal calling fit in with God’s dream for the world? What do you offer that only you can offer? Because trust me, your contribution is needed!
Sarah Graefe has a blast serving on staff at Allison Park Church as the Assistant Children’s Director at the Hampton Campus. She is a graduate of Northeast Ministry School. She loves traveling for leisure and for missions and enjoys reading, eating and kayaking in her spare time.